Custard

Recent weather with overnight lows in the 40s signals the coming end of Summer. However, with 90s still in the forecast, we’re not quite there yet, so sweet frozen treats are still on the menu. One of out favorites is frozen custard. In our town, there have been a few places that have offered this desert, though only two, to our knowledge, still exist. Both are chains. Still, we like the stuff, but what is it?

Dictionary.com defines custard as “a dessert made of eggs, sugar, and milk, either baked, boiled, or frozen.” The word originates between 1400 and 1450 from late Middle English “crustade,” a kind of pie; from Prevencal “croustado.”

When it comes to frozen custard, Dictionary.com defines it as “a smooth-textured, soft, frozen-food product of whole milk, and sometimes cream, egg yolk, etc., sweetened and variously flavored, often served in an ice-cream cone.” We think of it as rich-tasting ice cream. Perhaps it’s the egg yolk that gives it character.

Mr. and Mrs. Family Trivium prefer plain vanilla or chocolate, while the kids prefer a topping. Most recently, the favorites were M&M’s over chocolate and Nestlé Crunch over vanilla. We’d love to hear about your favorite flavors and toppings in the comments.

Chili

School is back in session, but it’s still summer and it’s still grilling season. In the Family Trivium household, this means that we’ll have hot dogs about once per week until the grill gets put away for the winter. One or twice a month, Mr. Family Trivium will be in the mood for chili dogs (hot dogs garnished with chili). Admittedly, the chili usually comes from a can as he doesn’t usually whip up homemade batches until the cold weather has arrived.

We’ve already looked at common hot dog condiments, such as ketchup and mustard, but what is chili? According to Dictionary.com, chili, referring to a chili pepper, is defined as “the pungent pod of any of several species of Capsicum, especially C. annuum longum: used in cooking for its pungent flavor.” The first known usage of the word came between 1655 and 1665, coming from Spanish “chile” and Nahuatl “chīlli.”

When we think of chili as a meal, we are really referring to what Dictionary.com calls chili con carne (Spanish for chili with meat), which is defined as “a Mexican-style dish made with chilies or chili powder, ground or diced beef, chopped onion and pepper, and usually kidney beans and tomatoes.”

In its definition for chili, Dictionary.com also indicates that the word could refer to a meatless version of chili con carne. To meat eaters, such as our family, this doesn’t sound overly appealing, unless you also take away the beans and don’t cook it – that leaves you with chopped onion, pepper, tomatoes. That sounds like salsa, which we’ll consider in a separate post.

The International Chili Society is a non-profit  organization whose rules are commonly used for chili cookoffs. They specify four types of competition chili:

  1. Tradional Red Chili
    • Defined as “any kind of meat or combination of meats, cooked with red chili peppers, various spices and other ingredients, with the exception of BEANS and PASTA which are strictly forbidden. No garnish is allowed.”
  2. Chili Verde
    • Defined as “any kind of meat or combination of meats, cooked with green chili peppers, various spices and other ingredients, with the exception of BEANS and PASTA which are strictly forbidden. No garnish is allowed.”
  3. Salsa
    • A definition is not given, but the rules state that salsa “must be homemade by the contestant whose name and ICS # appear on the Contestant Application. It may be brought to the site that day or it may be prepared at the Cookoff.”
  4. Homestyle Chili
    • Defined as “the cook’s favorite combination of ingredients resulting in a dish seasoned with chili peppers and spices.”

When it comes to chili, Mr. Family Trivium likes them all. Mrs. Family Trivium does not like any. Half of the Family Trivium kids will eat eat salsa or homestyle chili.

Mr. Family Trivium’s favorite chili dish, aside from his own homemade homestyle chili, is a traditional red or a mean green smothering a beef burrito at a good Mexican restaurant. We would love to hear about your favorite chili in the comments.

Biscuit

In the Family Trivium household, we all like biscuits. We like them with butter. We like them honey. We like them with fruit spreads – jam, jelly, preserves, marmalade, etc. Mr. Family Trivium even likes them with sausage and gravy. We don’t eat biscuits often, but when we do, we savor them.

A biscuit, to Americans anyways, is defined by the Oxford Dictionaries as “A small, typically round cake of bread leavened with baking powder, baking soda, or sometimes yeast.” The Oxford Dictionaries further explain the word’s origin:

Middle English: from Old French bescuit, based on Latin bis ‘twice’ + coctus, past participle of coquere ‘to cook’ (so named because originally biscuits were cooked in a twofold process: first baked and then dried out in a slow oven so that they would keep).

The Online Etymology Dictionary dates the Old French usage to the 12th Century, while first U.S. use, in reference to the “soft bun,” which we know and love today, was made in 1818.

These days, we generally have biscuits while dining out. Occasionally, on a lazy winter morning, Mr. Family Trivium has been know to wake up before everyone else (he actually does that part almost every day), then fire up the oven and put together the ingredients for homemade fresh biscuits. Though simple, these fresh out of the oven biscuits are some of the best.If you have a favorite biscuit, feel free to let us know about it in the comments.

Cold Cut

In our last post, we talked about the picnic and how we were planning to take one. We did, and it was a beautiful July day: low 80s, a light breeze, a blue sky punctuated by a few clouds, and a desert-like, for us, 30% relative humidity (wow). The main course was, as planned and mentioned in yesterday’s post, cold cut sandwiches.

Dictionary.com defines cold cuts as “slices of unheated salami, bologna, ham, liverwurst, turkey, or other meats and sometimes cheeses.” It is thought to have originated as an Americanism between 1940 and 1945.

Our ingredient choices were hard salami, turkey pepperoni, thin-sliced provolone, and slices of American cheese to be put on Italian bread hot dog buns – we called these “slider subs.” They weren’t exactly Jimmy John’s #5 slims, but they were a far cry better than the bologna on white sandwiches that Mr. Family Trivium remembered eating on childhood family road trips as cars whizzed past the interstate rest stop at 60 MPH (yes, the national speed limit was 55 MPH back then). There were sides of baby carrots, snap peas, and, yes, potato chips. Dessert consisted of M&M’s left over from Easter.

Let us know about your favorite cold cuts in the comments.

Picnic

July is typically a pretty uninviting time to spend outdoors in our neck of the woods. Too much heat. Too much humidity. Too little breeze. We’re accustomed to days with heat index values in the 100s.

July of last year was an anomaly, with uncharacteristically low humidity and many sunny days topping out in the 70s. While  today is not forecast to be that nice, it is starting out in the low 60s and expected to top out in the low 80s with a light breeze – nice. To celebrate this reprieve from the heat, and indoors, we’re planning a picnic. Given our love of food and outdoors, we’re surprised that we didn’t cover this topic earlier.

Dictionary.com defines picnic as “an excursion or outing in which the participants carry food with them and share a meal in the open air.” The word was first used between 1740 and 1750, being attributed to German “Pic-nic” or French “Pique-nique.”

In the past, Mr. Family Trivium has been know to pick up the kids from school and spontaneously stop for a Little Caesar’s pizza before heading off to one of the many local parks or nature areas for an outdoor meal and a hike.

In a throw back to Mr. Family Trivium’s childhood days where lunches on vacation road trips were eaten out of a cooler at a rest area – not a place with golden arches, we’re planning cold cut sandwiches on Italian bread.

We’d love to hear about your favorite picnic meal in the comments.

Doughnut

With our love of French toast, pancakes, and other breakfast sweets, it should be no surprise that, from time to time, we get doughnuts on our collective mind. A few times each year, we crave them so much that we actually go to Dunkin’ or Krispy Kreme or Winchell’s or, better yet, a local bakery for these sugary, fatty treats.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the doughnut as “a small usually ring-shaped cake fried in fat.” The Online Etymology dictionary indicates that the word is from American English as a compounding of “dough” and “nut” in 1809, and was first used by noted author Washington Irving. The fact that this word was coined by the writer who brought us Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, as well as popularizing “Gotham” as a reference to New York City, adds a whole new layer of whimsy onto this delicious treat.

Most of us here at Family Trivium don’t have a particular favorite doughnut, though none of us are fond of those filled with jelly. Mr. Family Trivium is particularly found of sour cream doughnuts, crullers, and cake donuts. Let us know about your favorite doughnuts in the comments.

Buffet

The other night, Mr. Family Trivium went on date with a with someone other than Mrs. Family Trivium, and at a buffet, no less. What kind of a married man goes on a date, with someone other that his spouse, and to a buffet? A guy on a father-daughter date does this!

Buffets aren’t usually suggested for dates, but when it comes to father-daughter dates, they’re great. What is a buffet? Dictionary.com defines a buffet as “a meal laid out on a table or sideboard so that guests may serve themselves” and comes from Old French between 1710 and 1720.

The venue for our date was specifically a Chinese buffet. This was the perfect place for Mr. Family Trivium and this specific daughter as they are the only two “adventurous” eaters in the house. With respect to Chinese food, everyone else under the roof is either very limited in what they will eat, or will not eat it at all. This buffet was “all-you-can-eat” and offered a large variety with two tables of prepared Chinese dishes, a salad/fruit/desert table, a sushi table, and a Mongolian Grill. Even the pickiest eater in house probably could have found something to like at this buffet.

We tried many of the prepared Chinese dishes, and a few pieces of sushi, before finishing up with fruit and desert. Hard pressed, Mr. Family Trivium’s favorite dish was probably the jalapeno chicken (curiously labeled as BBQ ribs). Ice cream and Chinese donuts aside, Daughter would pick sesame chicken.

We’d love to hear about your favorite buffet in the comments.

Texas Toast

In our post on French toast, we mentioned that we made it using Texas toast. Are we confused yet?

At wiseGEEK.com, Texas toast is described as a type of bread which “is pre-sliced to about twice the width of a normal slice of packaged bread for a sandwich.” Generally, it isn’t sold toasted, but fresh, like a normal loaf of sandwich bread.

The wiseGEEK.com article indicates that Texas toast may have been first offered in 1941, in Beaumont, Texas, but acknowledges that it could certainly have been around before that. Perhaps this was when it was first called “Texas toast.”

Not being huge bread fans, we really do only use Texas toast for making French toast. It stands up well to being dredged through the batter when compared to regular sliced sandwich bread. We’ve tried both. We’d love to hear, in the comments, about your favorite recipe using Texas toast.

French Toast

It’s the weekend and around our house, when time permits, our thoughts wander to decadent breakfasts. Things that go well with maple syrup and bacon. What doesn’t go well with bacon?

At camp last week, some of us had French toast sticks. As hungry people, that had been sleeping out in the heat and not needing to prepare our own breakfast before heading off to classes, we were grateful for it, even if there was no bacon and it needed to be soaked in syrup for a bit to soften enough to cut with a fork.

What is French toast? Is it even French?

According to Dictionary.com, French toast is defined as “bread dipped in a batter of egg and milk and sautéed until brown, usually served with syrup or sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.” In the Family Trivium household, we add a dash of vanilla extract and cinnamon to the batter, but I’m sure we’re not the only chefs with that secret.

Mark Vogel has written an article over at FoodReference.com indicating that the term “French toast” originated in 17th Century England, while the dish itself dates back to Roman times. Originally, the French referred to the dish as “pain a la Romaine” or “Roman bread.”

The Breakfast Courier explains that in contemporary France the dish is referred to as “pain perdue” or “lost bread.”

French bread goes stale and hard, or is “lost” quite quickly, but a few hundred years ago, poor French families had to use it up anyway. They soaked their stale bread in eggs and milk before frying, making it easier to chew.

If the bread at camp was was softened by being made into french toast, we can’t even imagine what it was like before. Certainly, the bread at the toaster-free bread, butter, and jelly bar was softer. Given the overall cost of attending camp, we can’t really complain, though we’ll certainly comment.

Our family recipe for French toast includes eggs (the best you can find), whole milk or heavy whipping cream (when we say decadent, we mean it), a dash of vanilla extract, and some cinnamon in the batter. While we could certainly be more gourmet, we simply dip Texas toast (oh, how confusing) in this batter before frying on the griddle. Once cooked, the slices of toast come off the griddle onto a plate with a couple of thick-cut slices of bacon. While still steaming hot, this dish is placed on the breakfast table next to a jug of genuine maple syrup.

We’d love to talk more about French toast, but we’ve just made ourselves really hungry and need to get cooking. Until next time, we hope you’ll enjoy some good food, fresh air and a moment of learning.

Margarine

We feel that, since we brought it up, we must cover this one. We’ve talked about butter, and how it pairs so well over pancakes with maple syrup. In doing so, we mentioned margarine as a possible alternative.

Margarine is one of those things that we, as a society, kind of take for granted that every one must know what it is. Just to be sure that it was what we thought it was, we checked Dictionary.com for a definition:

a butterlike product made of refined vegetable oils, sometimes blended with animal fats, and emulsified, usually with water or milk.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word originated in 1873, in France. French scientist Hippolyte Mège-Mouries invented it in 1869 by combining edible fats and oils.

What’s your preference? Butter, margarine, nothing, or something else?